Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

The role of Emotional Intelligence in Response to Traumatic Events in the Workplace

What is a Traumatic Event? 

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Traumatic events vary but include any event that overwhelms our usual capacity to cope.  Events such as car accidents, fires, and interpersonal violence can cause fear and terror so great that people default to their survival brain, that is, fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. In the event of overwhelming trauma, the thinking brain shuts down. 

In the workplace we think about certain professions dealing with trauma on a daily basis, such as first responders and medical personnel.  However, trauma in the workplace is becoming more prevalent. Workplace violence, even shootings,  has risen in the recent past, as have external traumas such as tornados and fires. Such events take away control, both real and perceived, leaving workders on high alert for danger.  This drains energy and interferes with concentration. our perceived controltrol and our coping ability is overwhelmed.

Symptoms of Traumatic events

When workplace traumas occur,  Employees  will have various reactions depending on their past experience, their level of exposure to the traumatic event, and their resilience . Most employee will experience trauma symptoms immediately after an event. 

Symptoms can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anxiety 
  • Flashbacks about the traumatic event 
  • Hypervigilance (looking out for danger)
  • Avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event (e.g., not entering a certain part of the building; not coming to work)

When these symptoms last over a month and are frequent, someone could be suffering from  post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)  and should see a mental health professional.

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357)

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How can Employers Support Staff?

Staff that has experienced a traumatic event might also stuffer from absenteeism because they're having mental health and physical health problems. Employees might have a hard time being present and focused on their work.

When employees are present and they have a lot of absenteeism, their productivity will be lower than ideal and those people are then susceptible to burnout. 

Employers can support their teammates by applying long-term solutions. Take time to listen and learn about employee support systems at home and at work.  People with better support systems have lower chances of becoming traumatized. Employees who have more access to support are often more resilient and have better-coping strategies.  

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace 

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capacity to recognize and effectively manage personal emotions in ourselves and in others. When an organization has leaders trained in EI, those leaders are often better equipped to support staff through traumatic events. Managers that are better at  being empathetic will often be able to recognize the emotional states of others and respond appropriately. After a traumatic event, leaders should create opportunities for people to process the trauma, debrief it, and have ongoing opportunities to debrief the trauma.  Learn more about Supporting Employees Dealing with Psychological Trauma in the Workplace

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357)

Employees’ mental health has always mattered and played a role in the workplace. The Pathways at Work program includes workshops, live and on-demand training, interactive discussion groups, tools, and resources. We’ll help your business create a workplace that thrives by proactively improving the wellness of your people. Reach out here to get in touch with our team and learn how to make employee mental health a priority in your workplace.

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